“Phygital”: The Online-Offline Hybrid Shopping Experience

BVA Doxa and Salesforce present “Phygital Shopping Experience: an opportunity for retailers to increase loyalty and sales”, the first retail research on Italian customers’ phygital shopping experiences. 

Most relevant highlights of the research:

  • More than three Italians out of  four had phygital shopping experiences in the last year. Fashion, electronics, and beauty are the most active industries. 
  • The experience is very satisfying for 30% of the consumers, but there is room for improvement. 
  • Offers notifications, help in the choice of products, access to insights as well as in-store return services and apps to avoid queues and take appointments: digital makes the in-store experience better. 
  • A personalized offer and a better knowledge of the customer, who doesn’t get lost between the different channels; an improved customer experience, leading to loyalty and endorsment. 
  • Stores that are less “to watch” and more “to live”, putting the customer at the center, while the customer servicers become advisors, thanks to the digital: this is the future scenario according to the EPIC model – Elevation, Pride, Insight, Connection – by BVA Doxa

After the pandemic and the lockdown, Italians revise their shoppinghabits , looking increasingly more to “phygital” methods, an hybrid shopping experience that combines traditional shopping with online shopping and digital as a whole. If, on one side, the social aspects of shopping were really missed during the pandemic, the digital channel was able to answer to customers’ needs, bringing fundamental news and services . As for the future,  BVA Doxa’s EPIC model reveals that there isroom for improvement, especially if phygital experiences will be able to become increasingly more exciting and unforgettable. This is what emerges from “Phygital Shopping Experience: the opportunity for retailers to increase loyalty and sales”, the first BVA Doxa’s retail research in partnership with Salesforce about   phygital shopping experiencesin Italy, realized between May and June 2021 where more than 1.000 italian customers were interviewed, while activating the Shopper Community for in-depth analysis. The research was presented the 29th of September during  a web-talk in which Vilma Scarpino, CEO of BVA Doxa, and Marco Benasedo, CIO of Boggi, participated. 

Italy is in the first position when it comes to digital business growth in Europe, also thanks to phygital

During 2020-2021, two years characterized by the sanitarian emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a strong growth in retail has been observed, especially in the digital field. According to Salesforce Shopping Index, Italy scores first in Europe and fourth globally for digital growth in the first quarter of 2021. Generally, the global digital business  increased by 50%, compared to a total of 17% of the previous year. The digital business traffic is particularly led by smartphones, that are used more frequently for these types of online activities too. 

Specifically, what was  the digital business growth pushed by? Even though people suffered from  the lack of the social aspects of shopping and relationship with the customer service, the digital channel was able to deal with customers’ needs, bringing fundamental news and services , especially characterized by convenience, practicality and the possibility of infinite choices. However, the “phygital” experience emerged during these uncertain times, being able to become a hybrid of online and offline dynamics. Indeed, many are the examples where the physical and the digital channel link together, such as  the reservation or the purchase of online products and their next in-store retrieval or their home delivery. In many cases, shopkeepers who were not available online found solutions and suggested services who helped customers interact with their shop, while keeping them in touch with their customer base. These solutions, as well as the possibility to book their own place in the queue or the growth of digital and contactless payment systems, are well received by  customers to the  point where they would like them to be available  in the future as well.  

More than 70% of  italians made phygital purchases in the last year; 30% are satisfied, but there’s room for improvement. 

Three Italians out of four (74%) made phygital purchases in the last year. Specifically, the most preferred commodities with at least a phygital purchase have been fashion (28%), electronics (24%) and beauty (21%). As for the physical stores, supermarkets and fashion stores were the ones who adopted phygital type of purchases at a higher frequency. Generally, the phygital shopping experience is deemed very satisfying for 30% of Italians, but there’s room for improvement since 61% is somewhat satisfied .  

Omnichannel Objectives.

In many industries, phygital is increasingly more important However, right now, the ways to optimize the customer experience still needs to be refined. For example, it needs a real and viable offline and online omnichannel method, since 22% of the people who visit the store buy online elsewhere, maybe because attracted by more convenient offers online . Regard the contact with the customer service: 65% of the customers consider important for the customer service representative to know the customer experiences, problems and requests made by other means or in other channels, so that they won’t lose time to explain the problem again.  

Italians are divided when it comes to a combination of in-personsales staff and virtual assistants: the future is phygital.  

In this hybridation process, Italian customers are divided when it comes to a combination of in-person sale staff and virtual assistants. s. The “real” sales staff is central, provided, however, that it represents an added value especially in terms of expertise. It’s still consistent (52%) the share of those who see positively the combination of virtual assistants, and it is mainly young men who are more favourable to this demand, while women think less so. According to Italian customers, digital evolutions may improve their in-store experience thanks to notifications about in-store offers and promotions (86%), by helping them in the choice of products and during the the in-store experience  (77%), and by making available to them, in case of an appointment, a personalized offer (73%). 

Digital tools help personalize the shopping experience. 

If digital tools would allow the customer service to identify customers and know their preferences and past experiences, Italian customers would generally be happy, especially if given suggestions about specific products and services (48%), and would appreciate that the shopkeeper would already know about problems already happened before (44%). Personalization brought by digital means could have a positive impact on brands: almost half of the customers would recommend the store to friends and acquaintances precisely because of this service and 46% of them say they would visit the store more often. However, privacy remains a central topic: 59% of them say they are worried about the safety of their own personal data. 

Phygital: an EPIC experience.

The importance of Customer Experience and its positive implications for a company are already well known and acknowledged. In order to have customers with a pleasant memory of the experience, we need to recreate one or more “emotional peaks”, especially at the end of the experience. This is the idea behind BVA Doxa’s expertise on customer experience, which doesn’t have to concentrate on the simple resolution of dissatisfactions, but on the identification and planning of meaningful moments of experience, surprising and memorable moments along the journey. From this intuition the EPIC model was born: Elevation, Pride, Insight and Connection. For this research, BVA Doxa used the EPIC model to predict future scenarios of  phygital experiences that could be truly unforgettable.  

Vilma ScarpinoCEO of BVA Doxa, comments on the application of the EPIC model in the phygital retail field: “In order to create unforgettable experiences – EPIC experiences – the stores of the future will be less to watch and more to live. Online and digital tools will be more and more present and integrated with the offline, and sales representatives – both online and offline – will become real consultants, that will have to know their customers, their history as customers, more deeply, in order to give them their time, maybe by signing appointments via  online forms. In the future of the retail sector, the customer will be at the center, helped by more than one digital tool to receive not only feedbacks and assistance on products, but also personalized offers and communications.”.

Eva Adina Maria MengoliArea Vice PresidentSalesforce said: “The  customer of today is more digitalized and more demanding. Customers  want to be recognized by companies which they enter in contact with, they want to receive personalized offers and services. The phygital world is the emblem of channels integration. The only way to give quality experiences to customers is to have a single platform where all data and information converge from all channels and, this way, realizing a 360° Customer vision”.



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